By: Ben Brown
A 10-minute walk from the train station, this place was actually a prison until 1998. So what better to do now than allow guests to lock up for the night? There are no keys, only codes to the locks on the wood and metal doors. The bars are even still attached to the windows; ironically a very comfortable feel with great service and good breakfast in the morning.
This is a pension with a hotel feel, with the only real drawback being its close proximity to the clock tower, ringing every hour of the morning. The Jailhotel also houses the Alcatraz bar, a very popular spot for the weekend nightlife.
Jailhotel. Starts at ~$63/night.
THE SWISS CHOCOLATE CHRONICLES: LUCERNE EDITION
Confiseur Bachmann is a café and chocolate shop in Old Town, and home to the longest praline showcase in all of Switzerland. Seriously, a thirty-foot line of straight truffles. I ordered an array of truffles from the dozens of kinds they offered, and can definitely vouch that each and every one must be sampled before you leave.
Confiseur Bachmann (website not available in English).
Another notable chocolate shop in Lucerne is Heine, which specializes in Kirsch-filled chocolate raindrops. They also bake a fine Kirsch cake.
ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SPOTS IN TOWN: SCALA RESTAURANT, HOTEL MONTANA
Even in a city already so beautiful, this is your place for escape, indulgence, and memory. Walk off the lake boardwalk and arrive at the gondola entrance. A cable car delivers you up the hill, where you walk across the Hotel Montana Lobby. Hopefully you will be dining on the patio, where it’s hard to believe this place is real.
Rows of white tablecloths line the deck, overlooking Lake Lucerne at just the right angle to encompass the city, the castle, and the mountains. A soft breeze blows by. Young couples are sipping fine wine over candlelight and staring into each other’s eyes. Others are cuddled on the lounge to the side, just taking in the moment. Every table has a pair of binoculars for looking out onto the scenery.
The food is great, with a menu featuring fresh seafood, steak, and veal all prepared with a slight twist to reflect traditional Swiss style. Both younger and older crowds fit in perfectly. Make sure to reserve a patio table at least two days in advance, 7 days for weekend reservations.
Beauty is served free of charge. Hotel Montana. MT. PILATUS
The nearest major mountain to Lucerne, Mt. Pilatus is a spectacle to enjoy for days. Look for dragon emblems at the base when you arrive. I took an early-morning boat ride to get there, which gives you a 90-minute tour of the lake on the way. The bus can take you there as well in 20 minutes.
THE WORLD’S STEEPEST COG-WHEEL TRAIN
This train climbs over 7,000 feet to Pilatus’s peak. Within minutes you are looking down at the lake. Pass a few sets of trees and you are at eye-level with some of the mountains that seemed so high before. The view just keeps getting better. The entire time all I could think about was the fact that this train has existed for over a century. How did they build this thing?
MY SHORT-LIVED CAREER AS A SWISS CHEESE FARMER
Midway up the mountain, you can request to be let off. There’s a 2-hour hiking trail that leads the rest of the way up, as well as a genuine cheese farm. Two Korean journalists and I happened to catch the farmer and his son on a day where they went in to turn the cheese during the aging process. The farmer taught me how to clean, flip, and maintain the cheese, and showed me the equipment they use and the house they live in. Folk music played as we worked. We sampled cheese, and the farmer laughingly invited me to become his apprentice.
Before we continued to the top, we walked around and found a picnic bench perched on a nearby trail bend. Italy is on the other side (several hours drive south). Nobody else is in sight. For those looking for something of the beaten track, this would be it.
AN EXTENSIVE MOUNTAIN PEAK
I climbed up a set of stone stairs to reach one of Pilatus’s three peaks. From far away, Lucerne’s lake is one of many that color the lush greenery and bold mountain ridges. Basel and Zurich are in the distance. The mountains at each end belong to Germany and France. Farmhouses are scattered across open fields.
We dined in the Restaurant Taverne, part of Pilatus’s offering that includes several eateries from casual to gourmet, as well as two hotels. So yes, you really can stay here for days. They introduced me to native Swiss Zopf bread, which looks and tastes just like Jewish Challah bread; a platter of mountain meats and sausages, and trout caught in Lake Lucerne. I recommend the dragon roesti—with crispy cheese and spicy peppers. Did I mention the view?
SWITZERLAND’S LONGEST SUMMER TOBOGGAN RUN
After you enjoy the summit, a tram takes you down to mid-mountain, where more mountain activities await people looking for another rush. Hiking trails lead all over, and there’s a ropes course for zip lining around the mountain.
Then there’s the Toboggan run. Simply get into the small cart, push the lever forward, and go. Your surroundings blur by as you take turns at high speeds and go under tunnels on the metal track. It’s about a half-mile long, just try not to get your head taken off.
Mt. Pilatus. Tickets start at ~$34 with Swiss Pass.
BEN’S LUCERNE VIDEO
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Benjamin Samuel Brown is a senior broadcast journalism student at the University of Southern California. Born and raised in San Diego, California, Ben’s travel experience spans across more than a dozen countries over four continents and both hemispheres. His preferences tend to stray away from the typical excursion, however—from hiking for backcountry ski slopes in New Zealand to volunteering on an army base for the Israeli Defense Force.
In college, Ben is currently pursuing the honors curriculum in the Annenberg School of Journalism while obtaining a minor degree in sculpture.
All information presented here is accurate at the time of publication but prices, dates and other details are all subject to change. Please confirm all information before making any travel arrangements.
Note: This trip was sponsored in part by Switzerland Tourism
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